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Friday, September 20, 2019

Appeals court won't dismiss climate change lawsuit against U.S. government; Group suing Exxon supports case

By Amanda Thomas | May 8, 2018

| © Carrienelson1 | Megapixl.com

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has denied the federal government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a group of youths who want the government to take stronger actions in fighting climate change.

In a March 7 ruling, Chief Circuit Judge Sidney R. Thomas wrote it would be premature to dismiss the case based on how burdensome the Trump administration believes the discovery process will be. The three-judge panel included Thomas, Marsha S. Berzon and Michelle T. Friedland.

“The defendants’ argument fails because the district court has not issued a single discovery order, nor have the plaintiffs filed a single motion seeking to compel discovery,” Thomas said in his decision. “Rather, the parties have employed the usual meet-and-confer process of resolving discovery disputes.”

Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana and her co-plaintiffs, whose ages range from 8 to 19, sued then-President Barack Obama and several government agencies in 2015. They alleged the government contributed to climate change because it knew about the dangers of burning fossil fuels and implemented policies that allow for its continued use. They allege that the government is violating their constitutional rights.

Federal attorneys argued the suit shouldn’t move forward because it’s too broad and speculative. The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon had denied requests by the government to dismiss the case, which led to the Trump administration’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit for a writ of mandamus.

“Absent any discovery order, the mandamus petition is premature insofar as it is premised on a fear of burdensome discovery,” the opinion said. 

The Niskanen Center, which is involved in a climate change lawsuit against Exxon, filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in September. 

“The U.S. has provided tens of billions of dollars in financing for overseas fossil fuel exploration, development and use, which will lead to approximately 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions over the next 15 years,” the brief said. 

The Niskanen Center is representing three Colorado governments in its lawsuit blaming two energy companies on a pro bono basis, while a Denver private attorney will make 20% of any recovery thanks to his contingent fee agreement.

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9th Circuit Appellate Court, San Francisco United States of America